Election 2020: Minneapolis City Questions 1 and 2

Minneapolis is voting on two questions that would amend the city charter. Neither is a question about policing, because the charter commission decided that as an un-elected body they were under no obligation to act in accordance with the wishes of the citizenry and didn’t put any questions about policing on the ballot. I bet that some of the charter commission members read my blog, and so before going onward to talk about the amendments that are on the ballot, I would just like to take this opportunity to say to them: why, hello there, fuck 10 out of the 15 of you

The questions on the ballot read as follows.

CITY QUESTION 1 (Minneapolis)
Redistricting of Wards and Park Districts

Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to allow ward and park district boundaries to be reestablished in a year ending in 1 and to allow the use of those new boundaries for elections in that same year; to allow ward and park district boundaries to be modified after the legislature has been redistricted to establish City precinct boundaries; to provide that an election for a Council Member office required by Minnesota law in a year ending in 2 or 3 after a redistricting shall be for a single 2-year term; and to clarify that a regular election means a regular general election?

CITY QUESTION 2 (Minneapolis)
Special Municipal Elections
Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to comply with Minnesota election law related to uniform dates for special municipal elections and to provide that a special election be held on a legal election day under Minnesota law that is more than 90 days from a vacancy in the office of Mayor or Council Member?

You can vote yes or no. The two questions are voted on separately (and although they are both about elections, they’re unrelated.)

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Election 2020: Primary Sample Ballot & Uncle Hugo’s Fundraiser

MINNEAPOLIS WARD 6 CITY COUNCIL (NOT A PRIMARY)

  1. Abdirizak Bihi
  2. Saciido Shaie
  3. Alex PalaciosAlthough I have not re-visited this one and Saciido Shaie did not register a campaign committee and Abdirizak Bihi did not file a campaign finance report. The candidates who were actually following the rules on that were Alex Palacios, Jamal Osman, and AJ Awed. Despite him having not initially made my top three, I might switch to AJ Awed at this point if I lived in the district.

MINNEAPOLIS SCHOOL BOARD

At-Large — Michael Dueñes
District 4 — Adriana Cerillo but possibly Mims in the general, undecided

US SENATE

Tina Smith, but if you want a further-to-the-left option in the primary you can vote for Paula Overby. If you’re voting in the Republican party primary for some reason, totally vote for Bob “Again” Carney.

US HOUSE

CD 4 — Betty McCollum
CD 5 — Ilhan Omar

MN SENATE

59 — Bobby Joe Champion
62 — Omar Fateh
65 — Laverne McCartney Knighton

MN HOUSE

59B — Esther Agbaje
63A — Jim Davnie
63B — Emma Greenman
66B — Athena Hollins
67A — Couldn’t decide, both candidates look awesome ETA TO ADD: a comment on my post says that Murphy actually dropped out, so Thompson it is.

FYI, I spent July mostly focused on revising my novel, CHAOS ON CATNET, which is turned into my editor and incidentally available for pre-order on Amazon. This meant I didn’t get some of these write-ups done in time to be useful, unfortunately. But also, these days I usually try to run some sort of fundraiser and I didn’t have the bandwidth to think about what to point people to.

But, a couple of days ago I got an update on the Save Uncle Hugo’s fundraiser, which included some updates from owner Don Blyly. I’ve been meaning to write about this in more detail, because Don has always been unusually forthcoming about the ups and downs of owning a small business, and the stuff he’s run into just trying to get basic stuff like a demolition permit (his store was burned to the ground but he will need to pay someone to scoop out and haul the rubble, for which he needs a permit) has been nightmarish, the kind of absolute bullshit that makes me want to scream, “does the city of Minneapolis want to transform the Lake Street corridor into a mix of checks-cashed-here places and chain stores? Is that their goal?” (It’s not just Don running into this; Ruhel Islam, the owner of Gandhi Mahal, has spoken about some of the obstacles too.)

Anyway: Uncle Hugo’s is one of my favorite stores on the planet, so much so that in my fictional Future Minneapolis in Chaos on CatNet (which takes place approximately 10 years in the future), I gave them a beautiful new storefront on Lake Street with a sculpture of a rocket ship on the front of the building. I think Don wants to rebuild if he possibly can. I would encourage my so-enthusiastic-they-wish-to-send-money-somewhere readers to please contribute to the Uncle Hugo’s rebuilding fund or buy one of their t-shirts or sweatshirts. You can also, as it happens, order a signed copy of Catfishing on CatNet from him — he’s running a mail-order business from his house at the moment.

Election 2020: MN House 59B Primary

This is the seat currently held by Raymond Dehn, the progressive favorite mayoral candidate back in 2017. On the ballot:

Raymond Dehn (incumbent)
Esther Agbaje (endorsed by the DFL)
Isaiah Whitmore

Lisa Neal-Delgado, a Green, will be running in the general election. (I mention this just in case you’ve seen her name and are wondering why she’s not getting discussed!)

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Elections 2020: Minneapolis Ward 6 City Council. NOT A PRIMARY.

Abdi Warsame, the former Minneapolis City Council rep for Ward 6, resigned in March to lead the city’s Public Housing Authority instead. There is a special election, and on August 11th (the same day as the primary) Ward 6 residents will have their election for this open seat. They will be using ranked-choice voting so there is no primary. Voters will get to rank three candidates, and the August 11th election is the actual election.

The winner will serve for one year, then (presumably) run for re-election in 2021.

There are 12 candidates on the ballot.

AK Hassan (DFL)
AJ Awed (Independent)
Michael P. Dougherty (DFL)
Mohamoud Hassan (DFL)
Nebiha Mohammed (DFL)
Suud Olat (DFL)
Jamal Osman (DFL)
Sara Mae Engberg (Humanity Forward)
Alex Palacios (DFL)
Saciido Shaie (DFL)
Joshua Scheunemann (Green)
Abdirizak Bihi (DFL)

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Elections 2020: Minneapolis School Board Primary

Minneapolis City Council and Mayoral races are done with instant runoff voting, but school board is not. There’s a primary (you vote for one) and then a runoff between the two top candidates. Five candidates are running for one at-large seat.

Kim Ellison (incumbent, DFL-endorsed)
William Awe
Doug Mann
Lynne Crockett
Michael Dueñes

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Election 2020: Charter Amendments & Police Reform

In Minnesota, a lot of cities have charters. Your city charter is sort of the constitution by which your city is run. Ordinances can be changed fairly easily, by having the City Council vote; in order to amend a City Charter, you need a referendum. (This is not entirely true — noncontroversial stuff can just be approved by the City Council. But a lot of stuff requires votes.)

I’ve written about the Minneapolis City Charter a couple of times. In 2018, there was an amendment to revise liquor licensing laws. More notably, in 2013, the whole charter got a massive revision. The Charter Commission rewrote it in modern English instead of archaic legalese and took out all the bits that had been superceded by other bits. This had to go to two referendum votes (which were on the same ballot), because passing anything related to alcohol requires a larger majority, and they agreed that having most of it in modern English but reverting abruptly to archaic legalese whenever alcohol was mentioned would still be an overall improvement. (Both pieces passed.) Nothing about the rules was actually changed in 2013 — the goal was not to fix the rules (many of which are overly fiddly and very much something that should be in the ordinances, not the charter), it was to fix the problem where people couldn’t even figure out what the rules were because the charter was such an overall unreadable mess.

By chance, the section I pulled out in 2013 to illustrate the difference between the old charter and the new charter is the one under discussion right now. Here’s the current version:

7.3. Police
(a) Police department. The Mayor has complete power over the establishment, maintenance, and command of the police department. The Mayor may make all rules and regulations and may promulgate and enforce general and special orders necessary to operating the police department. Except where the law vests an appointment in the department itself, the Mayor appoints and may discipline or discharge any employee in the department (subject to the Civil Service Commission’s rules, in the case of an employee in the classified service).

(1) Police chief.
(A) Appointment. The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a police chief under section 8.4(b).
(B) Term. The chief’s term is three years.
(C) Civil service. The chief serves in the unclassified service, but with the same employee benefits (except as to hiring and removal) as an officer in the classified service. If a chief is appointed from the classified service, then he or she is treated as taking a leave of Revised Charter 30 Proposed 1 May 2013
absence while serving as chief, after which he or she is entitled to return to his or her permanent grade in the classified service. If no vacancy is available in that grade, then the least senior employee so classified returns to his or her grade before being so classified.
(D) Public health. The chief must execute the City Council’s orders relating to the preservation of health.
(2) Police officers. Each peace officer appointed in the police department must be licensed as required by law. Each such licensed officer may exercise any lawful power that a peace officer enjoys at common law or by general or special law, and may execute a warrant anywhere in the county.
(b) Temporary police. The Mayor may, in case of riot or other emergency, appoint any necessary temporary police officer for up to one week. Each such officer must be a licensed peace officer.
(c) Funding. The City Council must fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, and provide for those employees’ compensation, for which purpose it may tax the taxable property in the City up to 0.3 percent of its value annually. This tax is in addition to any other tax, and not subject to the maximum set under section 9.3(a)(4).

“The City Council must fund a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident, and provide for those employees’ compensation” is a rule that makes it extremely difficult to do meaningful police reform. If we want real change, a charter amendment is needed. Here’s the full text of what the City Council is proposing. The whole policing section above is replaced with the following:

§ 7.3. Police Community Safety and Violence Prevention.
(a) Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. The City Council must establish, maintain, adequately fund, and consistently engage the public about a department of community safety and violence prevention, which will have responsibility for public safety services prioritizing a holistic, public health-oriented approach.
(1) Director of Community Safety and Violence Prevention Department. The Mayor nominates and the City Council appoints a director of the department of community safety and violence prevention under section 8.4(b). Individuals eligible to be appointed as director will have non-law enforcement experience in community safety services, including but not limited to public health and/or restorative justice approaches.
(b) Division of Law Enforcement Services. The Council may maintain a division of law enforcement services, composed of licensed peace officers, subject to the supervision of the department of community safety and violence prevention.
(1) Director of Law Enforcement Services Division. The director of the department of community safety and violence prevention shall appoint the director of the division of law enforcement services, subject to confirmation by official act of the City Council and Mayor.

However, in order for Minneapolis residents to be able to vote on this, the Charter Commission has to put it on the ballot, and that’s something they have to do by early August.

From the WedgeLive article:

Written comments can be submitted here. Instructions for how to participate by phone in the July 15 virtual public hearing will be available here once the meeting notice has been posted.

If this is something you want, make your voice heard. And note that this is not, in fact, a proposal to abolish all policing; instead, it would allow the city to choose to spend less money on a bunch of suburban bullies with guns to solve problems that they’re unequipped (by training, temperament, or inclination) to deal with. And hey, maybe this means that on occasions when there is something a bunch of armed people are needed to deal with, they’ll actually fucking show up? (“John Elder, a Minneapolis police spokesperson, said officers were simultaneously handling two other shootings in which a total of eight people were wounded.” There are 800 officers in the MPD. It’s super weird that apparently they were so overwhelmed by two shootings that they couldn’t send anyone to a shooting-in-progress where a bunch of kids were in danger!)

(There are 425,403 people in Minneapolis. 0.0017 police department employees per resident = 723. There are 800 sworn officers plus 300 civilian employees. So even if this doesn’t pass, we could, in fact, drastically cut the budget under the current charter and redirect money towards things that are not cops. I don’t think that’s the ideal situation, and the situation with that shooting at Jordan Park illustrates why. “Oh, we would have liked to respond to a shooting-in-progress at a park full of kids, but gosh golly we were just too busy” is unmitigated steaming horseshit, and their blithe expectation that everyone just swallow it is exactly why this department can’t be reformed, it has to be fucking eliminated. If there are any non-rotten apples in the MPD barrel, maybe we can recruit them for the law enforcement division of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.)

Anyway. Want to be able to vote on this in November? Send in a written comment and watch for the opportunity to attend (virtually) the hearing.